James Lileks
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It’ll probably be sleeting frozen frogs by the time this hits print, but remember last Sunday, when it was 197 degrees? Or close. My phone’s weather app said “99; feels like 98,” which suggested there was some windchill going on. The only breeze came from the dog’s panting.

It was the hottest May day since the drought of 1934 — or, as the headlines called it, the “drouth.” Apparently the nation lost most of its supplies of the letter G in the crash of ’29. You might think: “Wow, that was the Depression. Everyone stood in bread lines all day, only to be killed later when a zeppelin fell out of the sky on fire. And people were hoarding G’s.”

Well, no. Life went on. But reading the papers, you realize how much things have changed for the better.

There wasn’t any air conditioning. Just fans with heavy naked blades that would take off your finger if you got too close. But on the plus side, if you leaned out of the car window on the way to the hospital, you got some relief. People would put the fan in front of some ice cubes, if they had any; most didn’t. The average person got two, maybe three ice cubes — or, as they called them, “water stones” — a day, and they had to present a ration booklet to get those.

The movie theaters were good places to get some cooler air, but the accumulated B.O. of men in suits on 100-degree days often corroded the film while it was being shown. Also, people smoked, making the air in the theaters so thick it could be scooped up, molded into balls and thrown at the usher for fun.

The front page of the June 1, 1934, Star had a picture of women frying an egg on a downtown sidewalk, which is goooood eatin’ if you like your cackleberries seasoned with snoose. Women wore dresses down to their ankles and looked as happy as people wearing parkas in the Amazon, but that was the style — and the law. The paper also noted that a new ordinance forbade men to take off their shirts at the beach. It is unclear whether people were allowed to bathe at home unclothed or had to use a modesty shroud and unscrew the light bulbs.

The temperature hit 105 — although some reports say it was 106.3. (It felt like 105, perhaps.) The average for the month was 11 degrees above normal, but the front page of the Star said we’d seen worse. Why, in 1805, it was 108 on April 13, according to a diary entry written by a Thomas Conner, who was staying at the Snake River trading post.

You scoff: “C’mon, 1805? What did they do, count the number of times coyotes cried, add the frequency of crow caws and multiply by six?” No. He had a thermometer. And it said 110 on April 14.

How do we know this is a true account of Minnesota weather?

Two weeks later, the entries describe a blizzard.